Saturday, September 28, 2013

“My parents don’t tell me what to read and what not to read”…………BSC FF # 5: Kristy Power

The back of the book tries to make it sound like it’s about Kristy and Cary Retlin bickering with each other, but it’s really a PSA about why banning books is bad.  Which is really annoying, because I ALREADY think it’s bad and don’t need convoluted plots to convince me. 
Anyway, Kristy’s English teacher had a baby and while she’s on maternity leave her class has a new teacher, Mr. Morely.  Mr. Morley’s young and encourages everyone to call him “Ted.”  He gives the class two assignments.  The first is to pick a novel from a list he gives out and do a report on how it makes them feel, and the second is to write a biography on someone else in the class.  He assigns pairs for the biography part and Kristy and Cary get partnered up.  They try and say they can’t work together because it worked out badly last time, but Ted insists.
Now, it turns out that list of books Ted gave out was questioned by some parent who thinks the books on it contain filth and violence and all sorts of crap like that.  It also turns out that because Ted was new, he didn’t know he was supposed to run all assignments past the head of the English department.  I think this is to make it seem like Ted did something wrong even if you don’t care about banning books, and make the whole situation more dire. The head later says she would have approved the list, so I don’t know why they bother with that whole point.  But whatever.  
I guess the parents are putting a lot of pressure on the school, because Ted’s suspended, his job’s in danger, there’s a big meeting about it the whole town goes to, etc.  It seems like it should be the B plot, but it felt like we spent more time on it.   That may just be because it annoyed me so much.  Kristy ends up encouraging her class to support Ted, and she speaks at the meeting about it.  And ultimately he gets reinstated.  Obviously.
As for the Cary stuff: Kristy’s at his house to interview his siblings for the biography project and walks by his room after using the bathroom. She can’t resist taking a peak and looking around his room.  She sees a notebook that she thinks is his homework, but then she realizes it’s a journal.  (At least she thinks it’s a journal).  It’s talking about getting kicked out of school and loading things on a computer and hating people for being “phonies.”   Now, the use of the word “phony” made me think of Catcher in the Rye, because I remember Holden Caulfield using the word a lot.  I may only have thought of it because that was one of the first books mentioned on Ted’s list.  I thought Cary was doing his project on Catcher in the Rye and that we were going to find out the “journal” was just his version of notes about the book.  I figured Kristy would keep thinking it was his journal and somehow embarrass herself about the whole thing, but ultimately find out she was wrong.  I was only partially right. 
So, Kristy feels super guilty about it, and tries to forget what she saw/pretend it never happened.  But she lets it slip to Cary that she read it. Cary’s super pissed and barely talks to Kristy for days.  He supports her when she says they should defend Ted, but totally shuts down after that.  Then, at a meeting with Ted (after his job’s reinstated), Ted asks Cary how his novel’s coming and says how great it must be to be able to write by hand instead of needing a computer (like he does).  Kristy realizes it wasn’t a journal and is mad at Cary for letting her think she did something so wrong.  But Cary tells her it’s just as personal because he puts a lot of himself into his stories.  Kristy ultimately apologizes to him and they sorta make up.

  • The two projects are each 50% of Kristy’s grade.  So, if this teacher came in the middle of the semester, how can his two projects be their entire grade? It’s kind of disrespectful to the teacher who started the year.
  • Books on the offending list: Catcher and the Rye, A Separate Peace, Homecoming, The Outsiders, The Red Pony, and probably others.
  • Kristy has a Christmas party that she describes as a “real party” not just girls sleeping over but with dancing and music and guys and all that. I guess it’s a sign she’s maturing, from her immature days years ago back in 8th grade when she had sleepovers.
  • We get a reference to another BSC book that talked about how much banning books suck.  I get the point already BSC!
  • Kristy’s disappointed that Mary Anne isn’t excited about her party, but then she realizes it must be because she “just” broke up with her boyfriend.  But I think that’s about two months ago by this point.  Mary Anne needs to get over it.  She’s the one that ended it, and I get it would still be hard, but really.
  • Kristy sees kids talking excitedly in the halls and wonders if it’s about the space shuttle or something.  Which just seems like a really random thing to reference.  But it turns out everyone is just talking about Ted.
  • 8th Grade seems kind of young to have kids calling the teacher by their first name.  Maybe I’m just getting old.
  • Okay, Cary cracks me up.  Kristy asks what state he was born in and he says “a state of innocence.”  Then she asks about his first memory and he says he “can’t recall.”  I can see how that would annoy her, but I think it’s funny.  Especially the second one.
  • Claudia and Jeremy were partners in the biography thing.  So, this causes a bit of angst with Stacey and Claudia.  I wish we’d seen more of it.  It causes tension because Claudia mentions a story that Jeremy hadn’t told Stacey yet, and says how Jeremy told her about his most meaningful experience.  That one scene alone was more interesting than the rest of the book put together.
  • Logan’s partner in the biography thing is that Rachel girl.  It would have been really interesting to hear some of what went on between them, but sadly we don’t hear a thing.  This makes sense, since the book is from Kristy’s POV, but still.  Anytime we got to hear Logan’s voice over the course of the series it was with him and Mary Anne together and happy.
  • We meet some girl named Merrie, whose mother’s the driving force behind the whole protest thing.  So the kids aren’t super nice to her, but she ends up defending Ted at the big meeting in front of her mother.  Brave move, but she’s going to have a hard time when she gets home after that. 
  • The one issue I had with this book… takes place in Connecticut.  It’s a pretty liberal area.  So, while I believe that there may be a couple parents who would freak out about certain books, I don’t believe it would be enough to get a teacher to get suspended and cause a huge crowd at a school board meeting.  Especially if the teacher had the support of the head of his department and the principal.  AND if the books are all pretty much classics. They’d probably just talk to the teacher and make a new rule or something. That’s what they did in my school when someone’s parent complained that they showed us Heaven and Earth, which has a rape scene in it.  After that we had to get permission slips for any movie a teacher showed that wasn’t rated G.
  • Cary has MC Escher drawings and Salvador Dali paintings (prints, I’m assuming) in his room.  And a bulletin board full of weird newspaper headlines.  I think he must be a really interesting guy.
  • In class, Cokie Mason asks about their assignments and gets ready to take super-detailed notes about them.  But since when does Cokie even think about schoolwork?
  • Kristy hears teachers in the hallway talking about how they support Ted because of the 1st Amendment.  So, Kristy goes to the library to look up what that is.  And while I appreciate that she puts the effort in to do this, and that Ann M Martin’s trying to teach kids about free speech, it is really annoying to read about when I am very familiar with all that information.
  • This thing about not turning in the list for approval is silly.  Ted says how his old school was a private school and lesson plans were at his discretion.  But if he came in the middle of the year, he would probably have notes from the teacher he was replacing about what she was teaching.  And I would expect him to do his own thing, but it shouldn’t seem like he was going totally from scratch.
  • Plus, again, the head ends up saying she would have approved the list.  So it’s pointless.
  • When Cary interviews Sam about Kristy, Sam tells him about the “Spaghetti Episode.”  Kristy’s all horrified that Sam would do this but then tells us she isn’t going to explain.  Totally unfair.  If they’re going to give us a super-boring book, they could at least give us an embarrassing story or two.
  • So, Watson calls the school to give his support for Ted and Claudia’s mom speaks at the school board meeting (being a librarian and all).  The BSC parents sure are activist-y.  It must be where the girls get it.
  • Kristy’s elected to speak on behalf of her class at the big school board meeting for Ted.  And she talks about being nervous about it.  Really?  Since when is Kristy nervous about speaking in public?
  • Mallory, Jessi, Abby, and Shannon all show up for Kristy’s party. As does Dawn, who’s there for Christmas.  They barely get any screen time, but we see them all mentioned, which I think is a good thing.
  • I can’t believe Kristy was my favorite character at one point, and I've liked her Friends Forever books the least.

  • If Cary's writing a novel, he sort of sucks since what we saw was really a lot like Catcher in the Rye.  Just with the word computer thrown in.
  • Ted shows up at Kristy's party. Which seems really inappropriate to me.  Even if her parents were home.
  • At the party, Mary Anne keeps avoiding Logan.   Like, if she walks into a room and sees him she goes into another room.  I can understand how she’d feel, but it’s kind of annoying to hear about her being so awkward about the whole thing.
  • Speaking of Logan at the party, he ends up chatting with Emily Bernstein.  Kristy doesn’t know if that means anything, but it’s mentioned like it could be. I don’t think they’d actually work as a couple.  Logan didn’t seem to like when Mary Anne managed to be a little assertive, and Emily’s much more assertive than Mary Anne.
  • Kristy DOES ask Mary Anne if it’s okay to invite Logan to the party.  She thinks it would be weird not to ask him since all his friends would be there.  And Mary Anne says okay.   But like I said, she gets all awkward about it.
  • What I like about Ted’s first assignment is that he tells them to do the report on a book they are passionate about.  So, if they don’t like the first one they start, pick another until they do.  Which seems like an interesting approach to get kids into reading.
  • The problem with the biography part of the assignment is all the 8th graders in this school already wrote their autobiographies, so the kids should just swap those as source material.
  • Back when Kristy’s dog Louie died, didn’t we hear that he was named after the song Louie Louie?  Or did David Michael just like the song because of the name.  Cause Cary asks Kristy why they named him that she says, “it just came to us.”  I don’t have a copy of that book to check.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

“For the first time in weeks I felt I had someone I could really talk to”…..BSC FF # 4: Claudia and the Friendship Feud

To set the scene for this book - Claudia and Stacey are still fighting, and Claudia’s still upset about her dating Jeremy.  These Friends Forever books are pretty soapy so far, I’m a fan.
A sitting job comes up for the Pikes and Stacey and Claudia are the only ones free.  Stacey claims she can’t do it and suggests they call Erica Blumberg and see if she can help out.  She can, and agrees to sit.  Claudia and Erica get along great, and Claudia feels like she has a new friend.  They start hanging out and spending more time together.  Even though Erica hates shopping, she goes along with Claud and seems to have fun.  But Claudia can’t stop talking about Stacey and even calls Erica, “Stace.”  Eventually Erica snaps about it and tells her off.
Claudia keeps running into Jeremy in the hall at school and he keeps chatting with her and saying he wants to be friends.  Stacey’s obviously not happy with this, and ends up confronting Claudia at school and telling her to “stay away.”  This makes Claudia even madder, which I think is what happens whenever someone’s told to stay away from someone.  She ignores the order, of course.  At one point, Jeremy talks about how it’s hard to be friends with Claud because Stacey’s definitely still his girlfriend and he wants to be loyal to her.  But he also says how he still does want to be friends.  And he gets switched into Claudia’s English class at the end, which suggests they’ll still be talking.  Or that he’s really dumb and needs to be in the slower class.
Then Claudia and Stacey both end up having to sit for the Pikes together and the kids try and get them to make up.  Stacey gives Claudia this whole talk about how she misses Claud and forgives her for telling Jeremy about Ethan, and she’s happy Claudia has taken her order about not talking to Jeremy.  Claudia says she misses her too, but she can’t get past the boyfriend stealing and the mean things Stacey said.  Later, she decides Erica’s a better friend and apologizes to her.
Meanwhile, Thanksgiving’s coming up and Claudia has been spending time with her Aunt Peaches who has an old friend coming to town.  Peaches tells her how she and this woman were best friends, even though they haven’t seen each other in years.  But she says that in college they fought over a guy before and got past it, so Claudia and Stacey might be able to as well.  Peaches is still nervous about seeing the friend because she’s so successful in her career, but it ends up going fine.  And of course the woman’s all impressed that Peaches has a great family and all that.  I think the point’s to get Claudia thinking about friendship.  And maybe to say that women having kids is just as valid a choice as choosing a career?  (Although that seems slightly less feminist than what Ann M. Martin usually goes with).

  • It’s kind of random how when they need an extra sitter they just randomly decide to call Erica. Claudia makes a comment that she’s not a “regular dues paying member,” which I think is weird cause it suggests she’s connected to them somehow.  I would think that’s how they’d describe Abby or Jessi or someone who used to be in the club. 
  • Claudia says that she overslept one day, and didn’t realize until she got to school that she was wearing one orange sock and one brown one.  I am pretty confident that Claudia wore mismatched socks on purpose many times so I’m not sure what the issue is.
  • Janine keeps making fun of Claudia’s clothes.  I didn’t think she was fashionable enough to know when someone looked ridiculous.  I guess she really is a genius though.
  • Of course, Janine did once ask Claudia for fashionadvice.  But that was due to the influence of a guy, and I guess even geniuses make mistakes when it’s a matter of teenage love. 
  • Claudia says she didn’t always love shopping, it was only Stacey who got her so into it.  I guess we can’t prove that false because we didn’t know Claudia before she knew Stacey, but it seemed like Claudia was already into fashion and buying crazy outfits back in book 1.  That suggests she would have been into shopping.
  • When Claudia keeps babbling about Stacey, she mentions that Stacey likes pigs.  Which I like, because I love mentions of random facts from old books.
  • When Claudia and Erica go shopping we get a mention of Macy’s and Old Navy.  Don’t they usually use non-real store names when the girls are shopping?  Unless they’re talking about Stacey shopping in fancy NYC stores. You know Claudia didn’t buy Ms. Frizzle clothes at Old Navy.
  • Erica tells Claudia that she’s adopted, and Claudia tells her all about her own adoption paranoia.    Which again, I like because of the old book reference.
  • Since Mallory’s in town for Thanksgiving, the girls have a BSC reunion with her, Abby, and Jessi.  Only they have two separate ones, one with Stacey and one with Claud.  But we only see the one with Claudia, since she’s narrating this book.  It’s rather tame.
  • Claudia starts sitting with Erica at lunch, and Stacey has apparently been sitting with Jeremy.  And Claud mentions that she hasn’t seen Abby in a while, so I guess she has been sitting elsewhere too.  It feels a little sad to see the girls splitting up like that, but it’s certainly realistic. 
  • The Peaches plotline’s kind of boring, but we do get to hear about her meet cute story with Russ.  In college, she had a crush on some guy but hadn’t told anyone.  The guy ends up hitting on Molly (her friend) who was pretty happy about it.  By the time Molly finds out that Peaches liked him, she’s already into the guy and doesn’t want to give him up.  They get in a fight at the library and when the student librarian comes to tell them to shut up, Molly leaves, and Peaches starts to cry. The librarian takes her out for coffee and turns out to be Russ, her future husband. 
  • The Molly/Peaches fight about the guy doesn’t really work as a comparison, since there’s a difference between going out with a guy you had no idea your friend liked and encouraging a friend to go after a guy, then turning around and going out with him yourself.
  • Peaches makes some comment about how she gave up a successful career to have children, but didn’t she have a baby within the last year?  It’s not like she has been away from the work world forever and couldn’t go back.
  • Erica seems pretty creative and has a lot of fun in an art store with Claudia (a lot more than in the clothing/accessory stores).  So she and Claudia do make a good pair.   We never really get to see Claudia working with others on art projects, unless you count when Ashley first showed up.
  • Also, ages ago I read a fan fiction story that took place when the girls were in 12th grade.  It had Claudia being BFFs with Erica, which makes so much more sense now.  It was actually a really good story that focused on Mary Anne and Stacey as BFFs, but Claudia made some appearances.
  • Stacey’s really pretty self-involved and bitchy if she thinks she should be the one forgiving Claudia and not the other way around.  They both said mean things, but Stacey made the first offense.  AND what she said was a lot meaner, at least IMO.
  • Jordan Pike gets a crush on Erica, so after the initial sitting job, Mrs. Pike requests her and Claudia come back to sit.  And Claudia just says okay, without even talking to the other club members.  I get that they decided to be more laid back about the club, but it’s weird to see them just randomly change behavior and not have any issues with the new way of doing things.
  • Claudia mentions how on Thanksgiving the TV stays on all day because of the parade and football, but that she usually doesn’t watch TV.  Which, I never really thought about, but none of the girls seem to.  Which seems strange to me, cause I’ve always watched a ton of TV.  But I guess they didn’t want to have pop culture references that were dated by mentioning specific shows.  As if anything in a BSC book could be dated.

Monday, September 2, 2013

“For some reason being part of a couple with Logan didn’t feel right”……..BSC FF # 3: Mary Anne’s Big Breakup

Lately, Mary Anne has just not been into things when it comes to Logan.  She doesn’t look forward to their dates and doesn’t even really enjoy them.  She’s also annoyed that he still tries to take control of things, like where they go on their dates/what they do.  So, she breaks up with him.  Logan’s surprised and upset about it, and tries to convince her to change her mind.  He tells her he only seems to make decisions for her because he knows her so well.  But Mary Anne’s firm and ends it.
Even though she called it off, Mary Anne’s still upset about the breakup, and she doesn’t like that the kids at school are talking about it. Everyone is really surprised about the split, but most people are understanding and tell Mary Anne she did the right thing.
However, Logan’s friends take his side and keep giving Mary Anne dirty looks in the hall at school.  Mary Anne’s upset that they’re taking sides and says she wishes she could stay friendly with Logan’s friends herself, but it doesn’t seem like an option.  Meanwhile, Kristy says she still considers Logan a friend and Mary Anne feels all weird about that.  She even worries that Kristy and Logan are going to go to a dance together.  They don’t, but Kristy tries to suggest that Mary Anne shouldn’t mind if she did, which I don’t really agree with.  Later Kristy says she wouldn’t go even if Logan asked, so she was probably just annoyed at Mary Anne for suggesting it or something.
Pete Black and some guy named Dave that I don’t think existed before each ask Mary Anne to go to the upcoming school dance, but she says she’s not ready to go out with anyone else.  The night of the dance she wants to hang out with friends, but they all have other plans.  She ends up being home alone and when Logan calls, she invites him over to watch a movie.  He tries to tell her she may be upset about the fire and isn’t thinking straight.  He also says that he doesn’t really try to control her, that’s just how she sees things.  Mary Anne says she can only see things the way she can see them.  She’s upset again when Logan leaves, but she still knows the split is for the best and the end’s pretty optimistic.

  • I really like that in this book the break up happens early on, and the rest of it is about the fallout.  Because when Mary Anne and Logan originally split up it happened at the end of the book, and we never saw anyone’s reaction to the whole thing.
  • Mary Anne says she and Logan went to Renwicks (a cafĂ©) on their first date, but I’m pretty sure a dance was their first date.  When she kicked her shoe across the room? Or maybe that party Stacey threw for Mary Anne’s birthday happened first. But the first date wasn’t at a restaurant.
  • Mary Anne ‘s talking to Dawn about how she’s changed she they first met and since Mary Anne first met Logan.   They say how her hair was still in braids when she met Logan.  Except it totally wasn’t, she stopped wearing her hair in braids six whole booksbefore Logan came to Stoneybrook.  This is not a small detail ghostwriter.
  • Logan lends Mary Anne a box he kept with everything she ever wrote to him in, so she can recreate her journal that was lost in the fire.  She finds this picture from when she cut her hair and says Kristy took it to use when she told Logan about the cut.  But again, that’s totally not what happened.  Logan saw her hair before Kristy did, and Kristy was all pissed off about it, so of course she didn’t take a photo.
  • I know this is a new series, but you’d think they’d still pay some attention to continuity.
  • One of the notes Mary Anne wrote was from when they got back together says how she felt like half a person without Logan.  Which her current self is kind of horrified about.
  • There’s one Claudia outfit, but nothing too outrageous.  All we get to hear is that she wore painter’s coveralls with a daisy pattern she made herself on it.  I’m disappointed we don’t get to find out if she has a real daisy in her hair or shoes or something to tie it all together. Cause you know she would have.
  • Kristy remembers this “together but independent” thing Mary Anne and Logan did in Hawaii, where they tried not to do everything together.  She says, “remember when we all went to Hawaii and….?”  Only Kristy didn’t go with them.  That error doesn’t bother me as much as the earlier ones, but it’s still annoying.
  • We hear about how Logan’s teammates are taking his “side,” but isn’t Pete Black on one of those teams?  Cause asking Mary Anne out sure isn’t taking his side.
  • It really annoys me that on the cover they show Mary Anne with her old haircut.  Especially when they say she has chin-length hair in the book.
  • Stacey and Claudia are still barely speaking in this book.  It makes BSC meetings a little bit awkward.
  • Stacey encourages Mary Anne to go out with Pete, saying how she got to know him when they did a movie project together. But I think Mary Anne already thought highly of Pete because of that young author project they did. She always defended him after that.  (And SMS sure had a lot of projects, didn't they)?
  • Also, didn't Stacey sort of date Pete at one point?  It seems weird to try and set him and Mary Anne up after that.
  • A sign that this book’s definitely different from the original series…..Mary Anne goes Apple/Pumpkin picking with Kristy’s family, and they make a point of saying it’s NOT a sitting  job. So, even though we hear that Karen got stuck in a tree, we don’t have to deal with getting her out.
  • Mary Anne has a sitting job for Logan’s siblings after the breakup, and she’s worried it’s going to be awkward.  But Mrs. Bruno’s super nice to her while his brother and sister give her a hard time.  So, Mary Anne thinks Mrs. Bruno doesn’t know yet.  And I totally get a guy not telling his mother about getting dumped, but it seems weird to then tell your nine-year-old sister and five-year-old brother about it.
  • Mary Anne’s really surprised when this Dave guy asks her out.  He asks if she’s going to the dance and she says, “why, do you want me to work on some committee?”  Then she thinks how it’s been so long since a guy asked her out.  But who ever asked her out besides Logan?  Alex in Sea City’s the only one I can think of.
  • Everyone keeps pointing out that Mary Anne/Logan broke up before and got back together.  And Mary Anne points out how they thought they worked out their issues, but the same problems keep coming back.  So, she's convinced it’s for real this time.  I’m glad she stays firm about it.
  • Dawn tells Mary Anne that Mary Anne always defined herself by her relationship to someone/something else (her dad, the BSC, Logan).  And she says Mary Anne should try to figure out what she really likes for herself.  Which I agree with in principle, but Dawn sounds rather bitchy when she says it. 
  • At the end, Kristy, Claudia, and Stacey come by to see how Mary Anne’s doing (the morning after the dance).  They don’t plan this, they just all happen to show up at the same time, and go up to Mary Anne’s bedroom to see her. This seems unlikely, but I'll go with it. A few minutes later they go downstairs and see a note from Richard and Sharon that they went to the barn (where they’re starting construction on the new house).  But they must have been there to let the girls in, so why not just tell them, go up to see Mary Anne, we’re on our way out?